What is sexting?
Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages via cell phone or instant messenger. As technology has advanced and cell phones have the capability to record and send photos and video, the practice of sending suggestive and explicit pictures has increased, especially among teens however adults are active participants too.
There are several studies that will give us a variety of results about teens and sexting. Recently released in the journal of Sexual Health, was a study of 2100 high school students.
- 42% have received a sexually explicit image
- 43% have received a written sext message
- 54% have sent a written sext message
No matter what the studies reveal (there are many reports out there), the fact is, there can be serious consequences for sexting.
I understand it’s today’s version of flirting, however this type of flirtation can be risky – not only from a legal standpoint, but with your future as it pertains to employment or college admission.
Because your future matters – it’s time to discuss the legal ramifications – parents have a responsibility too.
Your digital footprint is your other concern. You don’t want to risk your name tagged or connected with questionable images or content.
According to a 2015 Career Builders Survey, 46% of job applicants were passed over due to their provocative or inappropriate photographs.
Having knowledge is power.
Last month I reviewed a report that shared that teens were not aware of the severity of sexting:
- 61% were not aware that sending texts could be considered child pornography.
- In the study, 59% of respondents reported that knowledge of legal consequences “would have” or “probably would have” deterred them from sexting.
It’s a parent’s responsibility to empower their children with the knowledge to make good choices about how to use all forms of technology and social media. But how can parents approach “sext education”?
• Start talking: When your kids hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults.
• Just do it: You may not get a perfect time to break the ice, but don’t wait for an incident to happen. Be proactive and use the APA study to open the lines of communication.
• Make it real: Kids don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world. Comments and photos are not retrievable. Especially with teenagers – talk about colleges and employers.
• Address peer pressure: Teach your kids to be self-confident and take pride in their individuality. ‘Am I pretty enough?’ is a burning question for many young girls today. It takes just a few keystrokes to help them feel good about themselves — or exponentially worse. Acknowledge that social pressure to participate in sexting can be strong. But remind kids that public humiliation stemming from it can be a million times worse.
• Give them control: If kids receive unwanted sexually-charged messages or pictures, they should know what to do next: Be the solution. They should tell you or another trusted adult, and never forward or share those messages with friends.
In closing – we don’t need studies, statistics or more sexting crimes to understand that this behavior is not acceptable – at any age. Just because people want to say it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.